Ask LH: Why Do Games Have Such Enormous Patches?

Dear Lifehacker, I recently pre-purchased Wolfenstein: The New Order for PC. I chose the DVD rather than a Steam download because my 4G broadband limit is 15GB per month (there’s no ADSL where I live). The game arrived yesterday and I eagerly installed the four DVDs one by one. When I returned 10 minutes after inserting disk 4, Steam had automatically downloaded 10 GB of “updates”, thus breaking my internet connection for the rest of the month.

I can’t even play the game yet because the install is not complete. How can a game not be playable out of the box? And how can a game released less than two weeks ago need 10+ GB of updates? Any insights? Thanks, Steaming Mad II

Dear SMII,

Patching of new releases is an annoying reality these days, especially for PC games as they’re rarely tested across the full range of hardware. Not too long ago, a “big” patch used to be a few hundred megabytes whereas today it’s not uncommon for updates to contain several gigabytes of data. A recent example was Dead Rising 3 on the Xbox One which required an update that totalled a jaw-dropping 13GB.

The reason for these beefy updates vary, ranging from major gameplay refinements to ensuring compatibility with fresh DLC. As you’d expect, sloppy programming and/or a rushed release date plays a large part too.

If you have a strict data cap or live in a rural area, there’s not a lot you can do about this. Your safest precaution is to disconnect before starting the install — if the game can be played offline, you may be able to access it without patching, although that obviously depends on the digital rights management and distribution models the game is tied into. Also, take the time to go through your games library and opt out of automatic updates for any games that have them.

It might also be worth contacting your ISP over the Wolfenstein update ambush. If you explain the download was completely unexpected there’s a small chance that they might cut you some slack this billing cycle. It can’t hurt to ask.

If any readers have data conversation tips or patch workarounds of their own, fire away in the comments section below.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.

Have you subscribed to Lifehacker Australia's email newsletter? You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Trending Stories Right Now